UMW works to accommodate displaced Eagle residents
By MEAGHAN MCINTYRE & SAVANNAH ROBERTS
News Editor & Staff Writer
A burst hot water pipe on the fifth floor of Eagle Landing displaced 112 students on April 6, and the damage will prevent 38 students from returning to their rooms for the remainder of the semester. The details regarding this incident were reported by the Blue and Gray Press on April 11.
Further information from assistant dean for Residence Life and Housing Dave Fleming revealed how the university is working to accommodate the students who were permanently displaced for the remainder of the semester.
“We took preferences into consideration if students shared those preferences with us prior to assignments,” said Fleming. “Some request[ed] to stay with their roommates while others requested to remain in a place with a kitchen. All preferences we received were honored and we worked individually with a few students who preferred to stay in their temporary space instead of moving to a more permanent arrangement.”
Of the 38 displaced students, 22 were placed in suite-style living and 16 were kept in either the UMW Apartments or relocated within Eagle Landing. The university addressed plans to reimburse students placed in less expensive living arrangements.
“The proration is reflected on their student bill,” said Fleming.
For the 22 students who were placed in traditional housing, campus dining is working to provide them with a reassignment meal plan that will provide meal swipes redeemable on the fourth floor of the University Center for the remainder of the semester.
In an email from the director of Transfer and Off-Campus Student Services, CJ Porter, students were instructed to contact her if they run out of meals and inform her that they need the “ELEV reassignment meal plan activated.”
An email sent on April 12, nearly a week after the incident, said that Facilities will continue renovations of affected apartments into May, “striving to be as respectful as possible of the students residing in Eagle Landing” and reassured students that there would no effect on Eagle Landing residents next year.
As information continues to be communicated to students and they adjust to their new living arrangements, students have vocalized mixed reactions to how the university has handled the situation.
Many displaced students remain frustrated with the lack of efficient communication from the University.
“The only emails they were giving out was the generic ResLife email, so no one would answer me. I emailed them on Saturday [April 6] and didn’t receive a response until Tuesday,” said Megan Weeks, a sophomore political science major.
Students were urged to contact Residence Life and Housing for any questions they had regarding their belongings and any concerns they were afflicted with. However, the line to call was inaccessible because the emergency happened on a Saturday. The number they needed to call was only in service on Monday through Friday, between 9 a.m. and 5 p.m.
According to some students, the coordinators and directors they attempted to get in touch with were either in meetings or preoccupied with finding solutions to the leak.
“I think it would’ve made a huge difference if I could have actually talked to someone in person,” Weeks said.
Students gave mixed reviews about the ease of the moving process to their displaced locations.
Junior English major Elisabeth DellaRova said that, “The moving assistance was really helpful, because there is no way that we could have transported all our stuff efficiently without it.”
On the other hand, sophomore international affairs major Anna Longacher said that when her mom came to move her out of Eagle, she could not go to her room as the RA’s were in class and unavailable.
“It took forever for an RA to come and when they did I felt rushed because they were standing at the door waiting. It was an inconvenience for both of us,” said Longacher.
As students started to receive information about their new living situations, their next big concern was the issue of reimbursement over their damaged goods. For many, they were not able to find out what was affected until the following Thursday when they were packing to move out.
“The biggest thing was that my suitemate’s trunk was rusted and damaged on the bottom from the wet floor, so she just left it behind,” said DellaRova. ”The university is not paying for anyone’s damages per the housing contract that we all signed.”
Fleming confirmed that students will not be reimbursed for damaged goods because, “As noted in the terms and conditions of the Housing and Dining agreement, students are encouraged to carry personal renter’s insurance.”
Displaced students appreciated the universities willingness to work with their preferences during the reassignment process.
“My temporary placement was in Eagle still which was really lucky and I was supposed to be moved permanently to Arrington,” said junior American Studies Ellora Larsen. “I was able to stay in my temporary placement permanently because it worked out well and I still had a kitchen to fit my dietary needs so it was easy to work out for me to stay in my temporary placement.
Although Larsen was satisfied with her permanent assignment, she felt like the overall process could have been smoother.
“I know they had a lot to deal with but it was a difficult situation being constantly left in limbo,” said Larsen.
Other students felt like UMW administration responded well to the emergency situation.
“Given the circumstances, I think they did a great job,” said Gabby Barnes, a sophomore in the Nursing program.
Barnes, a first floor resident, said that there is no right way to handle an emergency, and that “you’re always going to get backlash” from students because of how the situation was resolved. She did mention, however, that the administration “could have communicated a heck of a lot better” and suggested that sending more updates could have eased her mind a bit more. Emily Beitzell recognized the unfortunate situation that administration was thrown into, but addressed ways she felt they could have handled the situation better.
“I know this was totally out of the blue, and there’s nothing they could have done about the actual situation, but it would have been very beneficial to students to have someone they could reach out to for an answer,” said Beitzell. “Or even just holding a general meeting for anyone who wants information could come so we can ask questions.”
Fleming said, “While these situations are unfortunate, I am always struck by how well everyone comes together to resolve the situation and minimize the impact on students. Facilities Services, University Police, Emergency Management, Parking, Dining, Risk Management, and Finance have all been amazing partners through this. I believe my team in Residence Life, especially the Eagle Landing RAs and Desk Assistants, did a remarkable job under the circumstances as well. I’m very proud to be a part of this UMW community.”